Fresh herbs are irreplaceable. When you add them to a dish, they bring delicate flavors and beautiful aromatics that their dried counterparts simply can’t match. Using fresh herbs, whether it’s a few springs dropped on top of a grain bowl or several handfuls chopped into a salad, is a surefire way to take a dish from good to excellent. Cooking with herbs also shows that you care. They’re a delicious ingredient, but let’s be honest—they can be a bit fussy. A dinner packed with parsley and dill means that the cook took the time to wash, dry, and store herbs. The effort is worth it, but it’s effort nonetheless.
Fresh herbs are often sold by the bunch, but most dishes only use a few tablespoons. This presents both a problem and an opportunity. Leftover herbs mean more flavorful meals in your future, but storing them can be a pain. Herbs have a short shelf life, and can grow limp, dry, or slimy if not used within a few days. Learning how to store herbs properly can help them last longer. Follow these tips and you should be able to get through the whole bouquet before they go bad.
How to store herbs to extend their shelf life
If available, buy rooted herbs
Some grocery stores and markets offer herbs with the roots attached. These bunches will last longer than trimmed alternatives. The roots can still absorb moisture and nutrients, and will help keep the plant alive if stored properly.
Store herbs upright in glass
Fill a small glass or recycled jar with an inch of water. Arrange your leftover herbs in the glass like a bouquet of flowers and store them upright in the refrigerator. The added water will help keep the herbs fresh, and storing them upright prevents them from coming into contact with the shelves of your refrigerator. This method also keeps leftover herbs top of mind. If it’s easy to see them when you open the refrigerator, you’re more likely to remember to use them.
Or wrap in damp paper towel
Wrapping in a damp paper towel will keep your herbs moist and organized neatly. If you’re worried about the towel absorbing odors from the refrigerator, try placing the entire bundle in a ziploc bag.
Avoid covering them tightly
Most produce gives off CO2 as it rests. Trapping this gas can help fruits and vegetables ripen even after they’re picked (this is why we store unripe bananas or tomatoes in brown paper bags) but it will also accelerate decay. To keep herbs from getting slimy, make sure there’s plenty of airflow. If you’re storing them in a ziploc bag, try keeping the bag open to allow the gas to escape.
Looking for ways to use extra herbs? Try tossing them all in a classic frittata.